Ancient Aethiopia (Greek: Αἰθιοπία Aithiopia) first appears as a geographical term in classical documents in reference to the upper Nile region, as well as certain areas south of the Sahara desert. Its earliest mention is in the works of Homer: twice in the Iliad,[1] and three times in the Odyssey.[2] The Greek historian Herodotus specifically uses the appellation to refer to such parts of Africa as were then known within the inhabitable world.[3]

In classical antiquity, Africa (or Ancient Libya) referred to what is now known as the Maghreb and south of the Libyan Desert and Western Sahara, including all the desert land west of the southern Nile river. Geographical knowledge of the continent gradually grew, with the first century AD Greek travelogue the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea describing areas along the Red Sea (Erythraean Sea). The Greek name Αἰθιοπία (from Αἰθίοψ, Aithiops, 'an Ethiopian') is a compound word, derived from the two Greek words, from αἴθω + ὤψ (aitho "I burn" + ops "face"). According to the Perseus Digital Library, the designation properly translates as Burnt-face in noun form and red-brown in adjectival form.[4] It was used as a vague term for dark-skinned populations since the time of Homer.[5][6] It was applied to such dark-skinned populations as came within the range of observation of the ancient geographers i.e. primarily in what was then Nubia, and with the expansion of geographical knowledge, successively extended to certain other areas below the Sahara.

Herodotus world map-en
The inhabited world according to Herodotus: Libya (Africa) is imagined as extending no further south than the Horn of Africa, terminating in uninhabitable desert. All peoples inhabiting the southernmost fringes of the inhabitable world are known as Ethiopians (after their dark skin). At the extreme south-east of the continent are the Macrobians, so called for their longevity.

Before Herodotus

Homer (c. 8th century BC) is the first to mention "Aethiopians" (Αἰθίοπες, Αἰθιοπῆες); he mentions that they are to be found at the east and west extremities of the world, divided by the sea into "eastern" (at the sunrise) and "western" (at the sunset). In Rhapsody A of the Iliad, Thetis visits Olympus to meet Zeus, but the meeting is postponed, as Zeus and other gods are absent, visiting the land of the Aethiopians. Hesiod (c. 8th century BC) speaks of Memnon as the "king of Aethiopia".

In 515 BC, Scylax of Caryanda, on orders from Darius I of the Achaemenid Empire, sailed along the Indus River, Indian Ocean and Red Sea, circumnavigating the Arabian Peninsula. He mentioned "Aethiopians", but his writings on them have not survived. Hecataeus of Miletus (c. 500 BC) is also said to have written a book about Aethiopia, but his writing is now known only through quotations from later authors. He stated that Aethiopia was located to the east of the Nile, as far as the Red Sea and Indian Ocean; he is also quoted as relating a myth that the Skiapods ("Shade feet") lived there, whose feet were supposedly large enough to serve as shade.

In Herodotus

In his Histories (c. 440 BC) Herodotus presents some of the most ancient and detailed information about "Aethiopia".[3] He relates that he personally traveled up the Nile to the border of Egypt as far as Elephantine (modern Aswan); in his view, "Aethiopia" is all of the inhabited land found to the south of Egypt, beginning at Elephantine. He describes a capital at Meroë, adding that the only deities worshipped there were Zeus (Amun) and Dionysus (Osiris). He relates that in the reign of Pharaoh Psamtik I (c. 650 BCE), many Egyptian soldiers deserted their country and settled amidst the Aethiopians.

Herodotus tells us that king Cambyses II (c. 570 BC) of the Achaemenid Empire sent spies to the Aethiopians "who dwelt in that part of Libya (Africa) which borders upon the southern sea." They found a strong and healthy people. Although Cambyses then campaigned toward their country, by not preparing enough provisions for the long march, his army completely failed and returned quickly.

In Book 3, Herodotus defines "Aethiopia" as the farthest region of "Libya" (i.e. Africa): "Where the south declines towards the setting sun lies the country called Aethiopia, the last inhabited land in that direction. There gold is obtained in great plenty, huge elephants abound, with wild trees of all sorts, and ebony; and the men are taller, handsomer, and longer lived than anywhere else."[7]

Other Greco-Roman historians

The Egyptian priest Manetho (c. 300 BC) listed Kushite (25th) dynasty, calling it the "Aethiopian dynasty". Moreover, when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek (c. 200 BC), the Hebrew appellation "Kush, Kushite" became in Greek "Aethiopia, Aethiopians", appearing as "Ethiopia, Ethiopians" in the English King James Version.[8]

Agatharchides provides a relatively detailed description of the gold mining system of Aethiopia. His text was copied almost verbatim by virtually all subsequent ancient writers on the area, including Diodorus Siculus and Photius.[9]

With regard to the Ethiopians, Strabo indicates that they looked similar to Indians, remarking "those who are in Asia (South India), and those who are in Africa, do not differ from each other."[10] Pliny in turn asserts that the place-name "Aethiopia" was derived from one "Aethiop, a son of Vulcan"[10] [the smith-god Hephaestus[11]]. He also writes that the "Queen of the Ethiopians" bore the title Kandake, and avers that the Ethiopians had conquered ancient Syria and the Mediterranean. Following Strabo, the Greco-Roman historian Eusebius notes that the Ethiopians had emigrated into the Red Sea area from the Indus Valley and that there were no people in the region by that name prior to their arrival.[10]

The first century AD Greek travelogue known as the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea first describes the Horn of Africa littoral, based on its author's intimate knowledge of the area. The Periplus does not mention any dark-skinned "Ethiopians" among the area's inhabitants. They only later appear in Ptolemy's Geographia, but in a region far south, around the "Bantu nucleus" of northern Mozambique. According to John Donnelly Fage, these early Greek documents altogether suggest that the original inhabitants of Azania, the "Azanians", were of the same ancestral stock as the Afroasiatic-speaking populations to the north of them in the ancient Barbara region along the Red Sea. Subsequently, by the tenth century, these original "Azanians" had been replaced by early waves of Bantu settlers.[6]

Greek and medieval literature

Several notable personalities in Greek and medieval literature were identified as Aethiopian, including several rulers, male and female: Memnon and his brother Emathion, King of Arabia. Cepheus and Cassiopeia, parents of Andromeda, were named as king and queen of Aethiopia. Homer in his description of the Trojan War mentions several other Aethiopians. In some cults of the youngest Olympian god, Dionysus, his maternal origins are believed to be Aethiopia. Ptolemy the geographer and other ancient Greek commentators believed that the "Aethiopian Olympus" was where the gods lived when they were not in Greece.

See also


  1. ^ Homer Iliad I.423; XXIII.206.
  2. ^ Homer Odyssey I.22-23; IV.84; V.282-7.
  3. ^ a b For all references to Ethiopia in Herodotus, see: this list at the Perseus project.
  4. ^ Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert. "Aithiops". A Greek-English Lexicon. Perseus. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  5. ^ Αἰθίοψ in Liddell, Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon: "Αἰθίοψ , οπος, ὁ, fem. Αἰθιοπίς , ίδος, ἡ (Αἰθίοψ as fem., A.Fr.328, 329): pl. 'Αἰθιοπῆες' Il.1.423, whence nom. 'Αἰθιοπεύς' Call.Del.208: (αἴθω, ὄψ):— properly, Burnt-face, i.e. Ethiopian, negro, Hom., etc.; prov., Αἰθίοπα σμήχειν 'to wash a blackamoor white', Luc.Ind. 28." Cf. Etymologicum Genuinum s.v. [[:wikt:Αἰθίοψ|]], Etymologicum Gudianum s.v.v. Αἰθίοψ. "Αἰθίοψ". Etymologicum Magnum (in Greek). Leipzig. 1818.
  6. ^ a b Fage, John. A History of Africa. Routledge. pp. 25–26. ISBN 1317797272. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  7. ^ Herodotus Histories III.114.
  8. ^ KJV: Book of Numbers 12 1
  9. ^ Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Cambridge University Press for the Royal Asiatic Society. 1892. p. 823. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  10. ^ a b c Turner, Sharon (1834). The Sacred History of the World, as Displayed in the Creation and Subsequent Events to the Deluge: Attempted to be Philosophically Considered, in a Series of Letters to a Son, Volume 2. Longman. pp. 480–482. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  11. ^ Pliny the Elder Natural History VI.35. "Son of Hephaestus" was also a general Greek epithet meaning "blacksmith".
Aethiopia (genus)

Aethiopia is a genus of beetles in the family Cerambycidae, containing the following species:

Aethiopia elongata Aurivillius, 1911

Aethiopia lesnei Breuning, 1948

Aethiopia lineolata Breuning, 1939

Aethiopia paratanganjicae Breuning, 1971

Aethiopia rufescens Aurivillius, 1913

Aethiopia tanganjicae Breuning, 1964

Aethiopia elongata

Aethiopia elongata is a species of beetle in the family Cerambycidae. It was described by Per Olof Christopher Aurivillius in 1911.

Aethiopia lesnei

Aethiopia lesnei is a species of beetle in the family Cerambycidae. It was described by Breuning in 1948.

Aethiopia lineolata

Aethiopia lineolata is a species of beetle in the family Cerambycidae. It was described by Breuning in 1939.

Aethiopia paratanganjicae

Aethiopia paratanganjicae is a species of beetle in the family Cerambycidae. It was described by Breuning in 1971.

Aethiopia rufescens

Aethiopia rufescens is a species of beetle in the family Cerambycidae. It was described by Per Olof Christopher Aurivillius in 1913.

Aethiopia tanganjicae

Aethiopia tanganjicae is a species of beetle in the family Cerambycidae. It was described by Breuning in 1964.

Andromeda (mythology)

In Greek mythology, Andromeda (; Greek: Ἀνδρομέδα, Androméda or Ἀνδρομέδη, Andromédē) is the daughter of the Aethiopian king Cepheus and his wife Cassiopeia. When Cassiopeia's hubris leads her to boast that Andromeda is more beautiful than the Nereids, Poseidon sends the sea monster Cetus to ravage Andromeda as divine punishment. Andromeda is chained to a rock as a sacrifice to sate the monster, but is saved from death by Perseus.

Her name is the Latinized form of the Greek Ἀνδρομέδα (Androméda) or Ἀνδρομέδη (Andromédē): "ruler of men", from ἀνήρ, ἀνδρός (anēr, andrós) "man", and medon, "ruler".

As a subject, Andromeda has been popular in art since classical times; it is one of several Greek myths of a Greek hero's rescue of the intended victim of an archaic hieros gamos (sacred marriage), giving rise to the "princess and dragon" motif. From the Renaissance, interest revived in the original story, typically as derived from Ovid's account.

Arsinoe (Eritrea)

Arsinoe (Ancient Greek: Ἀρσινόη), sometimes called Arsinoe Epidires, was an ancient city of the Avalitæ, at Dire promontory in Eritrea, north of Berenice Epideires, and near the entrance of the Red Sea (Bab-el-Mandeb). The city was founded by Ptolemy II and named for Arsinoe II of Egypt, his wife and sister. Its location is near the modern-day city of Asseb, in Eritrea.

Cassiopeia (mythology)

Cassiopeia (Ancient Greek: Κασσιόπεια), also Cassiepeia (Κασσιέπεια), is the name of three different figures in Greek mythology:

Cassiopeia, queen of Aethiopia and mother of Andromeda by Cepheus.

Cassiopeia, wife of Phoenix, king of Phoenicia.

Cassiopeia, wife of Epaphus, king of Egypt, the son of Zeus and Io. By him, she became the mother of Libya and possibly Lysianassa.

Cassiopeia of Ethiopia

Cassiopeia (Κασσιόπεια) or Cassiepeia (Κασσιέπεια), a figure in Greek mythology, was queen of Aethiopia and wife of king Cepheus. She was arrogant and vain, characteristics that led to her downfall. Her name in Greek is Κασσιόπη, Kassiope; other variants are Κασσιόπεια, Kassiopeia and Κασσιέπεια, Kassiepeia.

Cepheus (constellation)

Cepheus is a constellation in the northern sky, named after Cepheus, a king of Aethiopia in Greek mythology.

Cepheus was one of the 48 constellations listed by the second century astronomer Ptolemy, and it remains one of the 88 constellations in the modern times.

The constellation's brightest star is Alpha Cephei, with an apparent magnitude of 2.5. Delta Cephei is the prototype of an important class of star known as a Cepheid variable. RW Cephei, an orange hypergiant, together with the red supergiants Mu Cephei, MY Cephei, VV Cephei, and V354 Cephei are among the largest stars known. In addition, Cepheus also has the hyperluminous quasar S5 0014+81, which hosts an ultramassive black hole in its core, reported at 40 billion solar masses, about 10,000 times more massive than the central black hole of the Milky Way, making this among the most massive black holes currently known.

Cepheus of Ethiopia

In Greek mythology, Cepheus (; Greek: Κηφεύς Kepheús) is the name of two rulers of Aethiopia, grandfather and grandson.

Egyptian)|Belus]] or Phoenix. If Belus was his father, he had Anchinoe, daughter of Nilus as mother, and Danaus, Aegyptus and Phineus as brothers. He was called Iasid Cepheus, pertaining to his Argive ancestry through King Iasus of Argus, father of Io.

Elaea (Aethiopia)

Elaea or Elaia (Greek: Ελαία) is an ancient harbor town on the African coast of the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden. The harbor is mentioned by Strabo (xvi. 8).


In Greek mythology, the name Emathion (Ancient Greek: Ἠμαθίων) refers to four individuals.

Emathion, king of Aethiopia, the son of Tithonus and Eos, and brother of Memnon. Heracles killed him.

Emathion, king of Samothrace, was the son of Zeus and Electra (one of the Pleiades), brother to Dardanus, Iasion (Eetion), and (rarely) Harmonia. He sent soldiers to join Dionysus in his Indian campaigns.

Emathion, a Trojan prince, and the father of Atymnius by the naiad PegasisEmathion, was aged Aethiopian courtier of Cepheus in Ethiopia. He "feared the gods and stood for upright deeds". Emathion was killed by Chromis during the fight between Phineus and Perseus.

Emathion, one of the companions of Aeneas in Italy. He was slain by Liger, an ally of Turnus, the opponent of Aeneas. Emathion had a son Romus, after whom, some say, the city of Rome was named after.


Ethiopia (; Amharic: ኢትዮጵያ, ʾĪtyōṗṗyā, listen , Afar: ityoopiya,Tigrinya: ኢትዮጵያ), Oromo: Itiyoophiyaa, Somali: Itoobiya, Hebrew: אתיופיה -officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (የኢትዮጵያ ፌዴራላዊ ዲሞክራሲያዊ ሪፐብሊክ, yeʾĪtiyoṗṗya Fēdēralawī Dēmokirasīyawī Rīpebilīk listen ), is a country in the northeastern part of Africa, popularly known as the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, and Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south. With over 102 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populous nation on the African continent that covers a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres (420,000 sq mi). Its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa, which lies a few miles west of the East African Rift that splits the country into the Nubian Plate and the Somali Plate.Some of the oldest skeletal evidence for anatomically modern humans has been found in Ethiopia. It is widely considered as the region from which modern humans first set out for the Middle East and places beyond. According to linguists, the first Afroasiatic-speaking populations settled in the Horn region during the ensuing Neolithic era. Tracing its roots to the 2nd millennium BC, Ethiopia's governmental system was a monarchy for most of its history. Oral literature tells that the monarchy was founded by the Solomonic dynasty of the Queen of Sheba, under its first king, Menelik I. In the first centuries AD, the Kingdom of Aksum maintained a unified civilization in the region, followed by the Ethiopian Empire circa 1137. During the late 19th-century Scramble for Africa, Ethiopia was one of two nations to retain its sovereignty from long-term colonialism by a European colonial power. Many newly-independent nations on the continent subsequently adopted its flag colours. The country was occupied by Italy in 1936 and became Italian Ethiopia (part of the Italian East Africa) until 1947. Ethiopia was also the first independent member from Africa of the 20th-century League of Nations and the United Nations. In 1974, the Ethiopian monarchy under Haile Selassie was overthrown by the Derg, a communist military government backed by the Soviet Union. In 1987, the Derg established the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, but it was overthrown in 1991 by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, which has been the ruling political coalition since.

Ethiopia and Eritrea use the ancient Ge'ez script, which is one of the oldest alphabets still in use in the world. The Ethiopian calendar, which is approximately seven years and three months behind the Gregorian calendar, co-exists alongside the Borana calendar. A majority of the population adheres to Christianity (mainly the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and P'ent'ay), whereas around a third follows Islam (primarily Sunni). The country is the site of the Migration to Abyssinia and the oldest Muslim settlement in Africa at Negash. A substantial population of Ethiopian Jews, known as Bete Israel, also resided in Ethiopia until the 1980s. Ethiopia is a multilingual nation with around 80 ethnolinguistic groups, the four largest of which are the Oromo, Amhara, Somali and Tigrayans. Most people in the country speak Afroasiatic languages of the Cushitic or Semitic branches. Additionally, Omotic languages are spoken by ethnic minority groups inhabiting the southern regions. Nilo-Saharan languages are also spoken by the nation's Nilotic ethnic minorities.

The nation is a land of natural contrasts, with its vast fertile west, its forests, and numerous rivers, and the world's hottest settlement of Dallol in its north. The Ethiopian Highlands are the largest continuous mountain ranges in Africa, and the Sof Omar Caves contains the largest cave on the continent. Ethiopia also has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. Additionally, the sovereign state is a founding member of the UN, the Group of 24 (G-24), the Non-Aligned Movement, G-77 and the Organisation of African Unity. Its capital city Addis Ababa serves as the headquarters of the African Union, the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Standby Force, and many of the global NGOs focused on Africa. In the 1970s and 1980s, Ethiopia experienced civil conflicts and communist purges, which hindered its economy. The country has since recovered and now has the largest economy (by GDP) in East Africa, having the largest population in the region.


Ichthyophagi (Ancient Greek: Ἰχθυοφάγοι and Latin Ichthyophagi, for "Fish-Eaters"), the name given by ancient geographers to several coast-dwelling peoples in different parts of the world and ethnically unrelated.

Herodotus (book i. c. 200) mentions three tribes of the Babylonians who were solely fish-eaters, and in book iii. c. 19 refers to Ichthyophagi in Aethiopia. Diodorus Siculus and Strabo also referred to them all along the African coast of the Red Sea in their descriptions of Aethiopia.

Ptolemy speaks of fish-eaters in the Persian Gulf coasts, coast of the Red Sea, on the west coast of Africa and on the coast of the Far East near the harbour of Cattigara

Pliny relates the existence of such people on the islands in the Persian Gulf

Nearchus mentions such a race as inhabiting the barren shores of the Gwadar and Pasni districts in Makrān, Balochistan, Pakistan. During the homeward march of Alexander the Great, his admiral, Nearchus led a fleet in Arabian Sea along the Makrān coast and recorded that the area was dry and mountainous, inhabited by the Ichthyophagoi or Fish-Eaters [1].

Pausanias locates them on the western (African) coast of the Red Sea

They are a people group identified on the 4th century Peutinger Map, as a people of the Baluchistan coast. The existence of such tribes was confirmed by Sir Richard F Burton (El-Medinah, p. 144).

Lepidochrysops aethiopia

Lepidochrysops aethiopia is a butterfly in the family Lycaenidae. It is found in Malawi, Zambia and northern Mozambique. The habitat consists of deciduous woodland, usually on small, rocky hillsides.

The wingspan is about 50 mm. The upperside of both wings of the males is pale bluish violet with a tinge of lilac. In females, both wings are brown with the basal three-fifths suffused with violet-blue scales up to the middle of the cell. The forewings in both sexes have a deep black dash closing the cell, and broadish dark termen. The hindwings have a linear black termen preceded by a row of terminal spots. The underside of both wings is very pale whitish grey with pale brown markings broadly edged with white. Adults have been recorded in November and from to January to March.

NGC 7380

NGC 7380 (also known as the Wizard Nebula) is an open cluster discovered by Caroline Herschel in 1787.

William Herschel included his sister's discovery in his catalog, and labelled it H VIII.77. It is also known as 142 in the 1959 Sharpless catalog (Sh2-142). This reasonably large nebula is located in Cepheus. It is extremely difficult to observe visually, usually requiring very dark skies and an O-III filter.

Located 7200 light years away, the Wizard nebula, surrounds developing open star cluster NGC 7380. Visually, the interplay of stars, gas, and dust has created a shape that appears to some like a fictional medieval sorcerer. The active star forming region spans about 100 light years, making it appear larger than the angular extent of the Moon. The Wizard Nebula can be located with a small telescope toward the constellation of the King of Aethiopia (Cepheus). Although the nebula may last only a few million years, some of the stars being formed may outlive our Sun.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.